The signing of Christen Press was the defining moment of the second half of Utah Royals FC’s season. Press, who famously refused to sign with Houston Dash instead opted to play for Göteborg, listed Utah as a desired destination and owner Dell Loy Hansen wanted to add her to his new team. Her rights were then acquired by URFC in a deal that saw Brooke Elby move to Chicago and Samantha Johnson come from the Red Stars to the Royals. The U.S. forward is a much sought-after player, and landing in Utah was a big get.
Press’ addition to the Royals redefined the attack. The team now included four U.S. Internationals in Amy Rodriguez, Becky Sauerbrunn, Kelley O’Hara, and Christen Press. On paper, Utah Royals looked to be one of the most dangerous teams in the NWSL, but the on-field production was never quite there. The team scored 22 goals in 2018 (7th out of 9), whereas league leaders North Carolina Courage scored an astounding 53 goals.
Upon joining the club, Press played in every game she was available (there was an international break and U.S. players were required to miss an NWSL game) and almost always went the full 90. Her 2 goals and 2 assists were markedly below expectations. With 34 shots in the season, her conversation rate was just 6%, meaning it took her 487.5 minutes of playing for each goal. By contrast Press scored 11 goals and had 4 assists in 2017, but she played over 2,000 minutes that season, so the stat is a bit misleading. What counts is in 2017 her minutes per goal was 189.7 and her conversion rate was 13%, so there was a drop-off in production.
That being said, Press is a great player and is a huge asset to the team. She’s a dangerous and creative attacker. She’s often played on the wing for Utah, but there’s debate if the center forward spot is better suited for her skill set. That role is more often occupied by A-Rod or Katie Stengel, so we may continue to see her on the wings. It’s still early days for Utah Royals FC and it takes time for teams to develop and gel. More so for Press and Johnson, both of whom came in midway through the season.
In 2019, we’re expecting to see Press back in Utah Royals gold. The U.S. Women’s National Team has qualified for the 2019 World Cup in France, and she’s sure to make that roster. Next season is set to hold many exciting moments for Christen Press, the US, and Utah Royals FC.